Thursday 13th December 2018

November Notes #5. 2018.125.

November Notes #5. 2018.125.

I went to a million (give or take) in-service courses as a teacher/principal.

I think they are called “professional learning” now and I also know they “count” towards accreditation each year.

I also devised and delivered many as both a teacher and University tutor and Adult Educator.

So what is this about in relation to my final November notes?

It’s how my personal development was & is enhanced by having cancer.

I am aware I have written at some length about the processes I have learned behaviour-wise and they are here, on the page “Denyse and Her Cancer Story”.

What I will do now is write about my changes in behaviour and attitude and how this can be linked to my cancer diagnosis. To make it easier and for me to see the changes, it will be in photos.

  • I gained independence
  • I became much less anxious and fearful following my diagnosis and subsequent BIG surgery
  • I tried new things with greater ease than ever before
  • I knew that to follow the processes and trust in the professionals, I would be OK.
  • I sometimes had to challenge the negative voice inside that wanted it all “done and now”
  • I found calm in more ways than I realised: particularly by going outside, into nature and doing art.

And then more:

  • As I already knew from the experiences of ‘exposure therapy’ the more I did the more I could do with increased confidence
  • Things do not occur linearly nor with ease and of course there were (still are at times) so tears that spill over and some worries
  • What is different now is how quickly I recover and re-group
  • It feels so much better for me to be a calmer person who is less afraid to travel, meet up with friends old and new and see greater times ahead
  • I can also put the “cancer voice” back in its box with relative ease by using my thinking strategies well.
  • I no longer try to ‘case manage’ anyone else’s behaviour.
  • I accept with great assurance that not only am I doing the best I can, so are most people
  • I am much more likely now to reach out a hand in friendship and care rather than recoil because of the anxiety and fear based on social engagements and effects of IBS.

And this is why and how having cancer helped me grow. It is a learning process of course. However, I am loving how my life is now and what I have gained back from this past 18 months living with a cancer diagnosis.

There is such a phenomenon called Post-Traumatic Growth. Article can be found here.

This resonates with me:

Types of personal growth

People may experience different types of change while coping with cancer, including:

  • Improved relations with others. Living with cancer may increase feelings of closeness or intimacy with family or friends. It may make it easier to connect with others who have had a traumatic event.
  • New life experiences. Having cancer may change your priorities, causing you to make different life choices. You may be motivated to make a career change, overcome a fear, or fulfil a life goal.
  • A greater appreciation for life. A cancer survivor may have an increased regard for life’s value or a new sense of vulnerability to death. This awareness may help you appreciate the world in new ways.
  • A sense of personal strength. Living with cancer can help you develop increased mental strength and a sense of empowerment. You can be proud of what you have accomplished.
  • Spiritual development. Some people living with cancer find they gain an increased interest in practicing religion or adding spiritual depth to their daily lives.

Having post-traumatic growth does not mean that you have completely overcome the stress and other feelings about having cancer. Growth and suffering can happen at the same time. In fact, most people who report post-traumatic growth also report having struggles. A person may grow in one area of their life and not another, or in a number of areas at different times.

I have been incredibly fortunate of course to have the surgeries and treatments and I never downplay cancer but as an educator I know what it has taught me and continues to teach me.

Have you had experiences that have changed part of your life and your outlook?

Please share!

Denyse.

Joining in with Leanne for Lovin Life linky here.

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What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

Last week I began this topic here and had a number of commenters who added their own hard things to the discussion.

What was common to many was the fact that even though they did not want to really do “their hard thing” they were prepared to give it a go and in most cases were pleased to have done so.

That mirrors my own experiences.

Thank you for sharing, everyone.

I found a couple of websites here for those who want to learn more, here and here.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

About (My) Exposure Therapy.

I am not a trained psychologist nor therapist but I am someone who has been taught what exposure therapy is and whilst I did not like its title (I called it my challenges!) I can outline how it was explained for me.

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

And then I HAD to face my worst fear and do a trip to Sydney to Lifehouse, see surgeons about my newly (24 hours previously) diagnosed cancer and be a passenger in the car. Three things! My G.P. said “take the valium, take the immodium” and my husband stopped at any loo along the way. I DID it all. Yes, with some drug help but no IBS.

That changed things a LOT. It did not happen just from that ONE experience…I had many more drives like that to face and surgeries but it was the beginning of getting better acquainted with of what I COULD manage by my thinking and doing.

In fact by early March 2018 I decided I could now drive myself to Sydney for the many treatments at Westmead Hospital. Yes, I still do get some IBS in the days leading up but I manage it. No, I do not scold myself any more nor cry about it. I get on with it. It will never be easy-peasy but I will continue to have my mind “do the hard things” and not be beaten by the anxiety of having IBS. By the way, this photo below is me having finished my 23rd session of measuring, treating and fitting at Westmead Oral Sciences. I drove myself to 18 of these!

Monday 10 September with my prosthodontist and nurse. No more visits for 4 weeks!

My Added Story.

Way before cancer and me learning about exposure therapy but when IBS was robbing me of experiences such as visitign the family in Sydney or going there for a social reason, I used to push myself to do some to these as it was “too hard” not to do them if that makes sense. One was (and still is) a family-duty visit to see my elderly father. I say duty because I really do not enjoy these visits much yet I also want to ensure he is OK and leave some meals and snacks I make for him. A long time ago, he tried to understand my IBS and made adjustments to my visits so we just stay in his apartment and talk. The times he insisted on going out for a meal or snack…well, they ended badly for me so he compromised.

With Dad – early 2018.

When I drove back home up to the Central Coast from the Northern Beaches  in the years preceding my cancer diagnosis I always stopped here. Sometimes I still do. In this space of nature, just off the busy and noisy M1, I get a sense of calm and success at having met that challenge of the journey and the reason. When I was there last week, I made this little video.

That’s not quite it from me in terms of the hard things.

What I have realised since even thinking about this post, is how much I do need to continue to encourage myself to take part in life’s changes. You see, I thought getting my teeth would be awesome and it is, but it added another layer of thinking to my concerns…so, if I can eat what I want to eat after so long, what will it be like if I become very overweight again and cannot fit into the clothes I bought in the last 12 months? I tells ya, it never goes away does it…this hard thing!

Comfort Zones.

No such thing really. Well, in my opinion, sitting or staying in your comfort zone helps you stay stuck.  was in mine for a while when I would go nowhere but when I think more of it is was a DIScomfort zone. I did not like the me that could not get herself motivated* to go again.

*I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression nor anxiety. I have been affected by reactive depression (sadness and tears) but that often resolves within a day. My ‘anxiety’ is more of a worry thing and has been part of me since I was a teen. My doctors and psychologists believe I am managing well. The very low dose, old fashioned anti-depressant I am on each evening is to help me sleep and it s l o w s  down my inner gut workings. If you have been diagnosed with either or both: depression and anxiety, then you should speak to your health professional about the types of things related to exposure therapy.

Moving On. My Next Challenge!! 

I am going to be OK as long as I eat well and mindfully because when I was very overweight I ate mindlessly most of the time and to stuff down feelings. See here, if you have not read my story. So, I AM different to the Denyse I was then and I have new and better skills to manage my emotions and life since cancer.

Wish me luck!

Hope you are all doing well too.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up.

 

 

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Learning To Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer. 2018.28.

Learning to Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer . 2018.28.

In the past four years I have been on such a long and hard learning experience.

Perhaps I am short-changing that time frame.

Possibly it has been since 2003 when I had to resign, for medical reasons, from my substantive role as a K-6 Principal.

However, in May 2004  I was deemed well enough to return to teaching duties only and that was fine by me because I actually missed schools!

In my working life in N.S.W. public schools from 1970 until 2010 I liked the certainty:

  • of the school day,
  • the rhythm of schools
  • and the fact that my work life was timetabled
  • and I could work knowing I had familiarity and knowledge.

I now modify the above by adding: no school day was ever the same and of course there were many uncertain times and experiences but they were all familiar and I understood them well.

In the years following my retirement from teaching in 2010 up to 2014 I decided that helping families learn more about transitioning to school would be good and set up a solo education consultancy. There was some certainty in this once I found a group of early childhood centres who were not only interested in my work, but would pay me a fee too. Win!

In 2013 I was fortunate to meet then Prime Minister Julia Gillard who thanked me for my work in education.

What changed for me and how did I HAVE to learn to deal with uncertainty?

Three major triggers during 2014 and into 2015.

  1. Deciding to sell our Sydney home of over 18 years, pay off the mortgage and other debts and move to rent a place on the Central Coast.
  2. Resign or down-grading my employment status in education: teaching at Uni, having my business and remaining as an observer for (then) NSW Teachers’ Institute.
  3. Leaving the families of our adult children and their children with whom we have loved and connected from 1996 to the present including daily child-care before they started school.

I have written about them before, but the memories of those times appear in my ‘on this day’ in Facebook and in ‘time hop’ so I see and recall them usually with a sickening thud to my gut. But then because it is NOW in 2018 and I am learning much more about how to manage uncertainty I am able to counter it!

Sign Above Where I Blog. B.Be Brave O.Optimistic L.Learning & Loving. D. Determined Denyse.

Where were we?

The rational and thinking brain does not  know why because it was logical back in 2014 and KNEW the decisions we were making to commence what felt like a proper retirement for us both were right. We needed to have no more debt. We wanted to live away from Sydney. We had been told my our family that childcare was no longer required.

The thing is, I found out in many hard ways that I had created a situation (or actually more than one) where my inner soul and feelings were in conflict with my brain choices. I spent all of 2015 trying to make sense of it and until a psychologist told me: Denyse, feelings take a lot longer to catch up with decisions and change, I felt I was doing it all wrong!

And in some ways I was.

I was ignorant of so much. I finally accepted the sadness and grief that enveloped me for that year. I actually thought things would improve for me when we moved house at the end of 2015 but it was short-lived. My brain was now on super alert setting and affected my decisions and my life. I tried medications (no, none helped) and meditation (a little bit helped) and walking and art too.

But it was not until I started learning more about the Buddhist way of living in the now, as it is all the certainty we know from teachers Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Anne Lamott  more that I clicked:

OH. I cannot control anything really.

At all. I can control my responses.

A big gap was closing in my learning. My husband had been doing his level best to enlighten me but I was not ready. Or, I was obstinate and wanted proof!

So for all of 2016 I continued to ‘try’ to accept things but then I would revert to the default in my brain and work on all the ways “I” could control life. This did not make a happy Denyse even though I felt I needed to look like I had things under control. Ha! My Irritable Bowel Syndrome told me in its very special way “no you do not!”.

Into 2017 we (my brain and my feelings) went… and matters worsened. And I hated how reclusive I became. I rejected ideas of trying exposure therapy because ….no control!  It was a to and fro between head and heart (with the gut in the chorus) until matters changed dramatically.

Late March – early April 2017.

I HAD to follow through with using graded exposure therapy to get my awfully sore gums and teeth sorted. I did.

It felt a bit better and when my new local GP met me and suggested a small dose of an evening anti-depressant from the ‘old school’ which would help ‘firm up’ my IBS issues, I trusted him and gave things a go.

THEN. May 2017.

I had a biopsy, I thought something serious was wrong in my mouth post teeth/bridge extraction and I was right. Squamous Cell Carcinoma in my upper gums and away I went on the cancer journey.

WHAT DOES HAVING CANCER HAVE TO DO WITH UNCERTAINTY?

Everything for me. I had to change so much in terms of my ill-founded beliefs that I could control my life.

Nope. That was a BIG lesson.

What I did learn, and have  learned every.single.day. since May 2017 is that I need to trust those who care for me and provide their services as they know more about this cancer of mine than I ever will.

This does not mean I surrender because no-one does that without thinking. What I learned about myself is that I can get through some very tough times (I did and have) because I can let time pass, let my body heal in its way and take the advice of those who are experts in the field where I am not.

Of course I ask questions! In fact, I sent off about 20 before my huge initial surgery in July 2017 but I had a much greater sense of security in having met the Professor and Associate Professor, the Prosthodontist and the Practice Manager. No-one seemed to mind my questions and it was clear to me, that by asking I was helping myself be better prepared for not only cancer surgery but for the relative uncertainty in the life ahead.

On Thursday last…waiting for the next part of the treatment. Selfies rule, right?

And now, into almost the fourth month of 2018 I am now driving myself to the prosthodontist appointments in Westmead and managing my physical and emotional health whilst doing so…and in between visits and surgeries I am doing the best I can to stay well and do as is required for my continued health.

I am letting uncertainty into my life as a gift for what it teaches me:

patience

courage

confidence

trust

I have said, more than a few times, that this cancer diagnosis (and subsequent surgeries and treatments) has helped me get back a Denyse I really like being and a person who is more out-going (as I used to be many years ago) and one who is more loving and giving to others.

What lesson(s) in life have you learned about yourself?

Do you have any issues with surrendering control?

Tell me more in the comments if you are prepared to share!

Denyse.

Joining with three generous and sharing bloggers who host link ups:

Kylie Purtell here for the I Blog On Tuesdays link up.

Sue L and Leanne L  here who host the Midlife Share the Love Linky Party on Wednesdays.

Leanne who is the sweetest hostess here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life.

 

 

 

 

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Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

One year ago this week I was an anxious, hypervigilant and fearful woman because……of nothing other than what went on in my mind.

There  was NO real reason At ALL for this.

However, my mind over-rode the outside messages of safety and security and commonsense and left me:

fearful

worried

catastrophising

and really, really disappointed in myself for being like this.

Does this sound true for anyone else reading?

These sayings are from blog posts in February last year. I knew I needed help and to change my thinking but gosh it proved hard and I really had to move away from ‘positive affirmations’ which are now said not to do us much good at all… and WORK hard at the shift.

I did. I saw my psychologist about the ramping up of my fear to travel on the M1 (read about that here and here for part two) whilst she was kindly she did say I would have to do this work for myself. I baulked at it over and over. Why? It all seemed far too hard and my mind was leading.

But it took THIS!

In April 2017 my  teeth & bridge  needed extracting because they were causing me pain and I was sure something was wrong. Forward to the results of a biopsy of the gums in the front of my mouth in May 2017 where cancer was found. Posts are here about that.

From June 2017 until now I have gently and firmly led myself out of that busy and annoyingly bossy mind to be able to:

  • accept what is happening to me in terms of my health
  • understand that I have the inner capacity to manage my emotions now
  • give back to others who have supported me as I found my strength and confidence again
  • joyously proclaim each day that I am going well (even in some pain or discomfort it is OK)
  • be grateful for the big wake-up call to assist the change
  • MAKE the inner and outer world of me one which I am most happy to inhabit

This has led me to the intention I set earlier this year. I chose B.O.L.D.

Be Brave

Optimistic

Learning & Loving

Determined Denyse

and I had the ‘word’ engraved on a bracelet I wear 24/7 (other than hospital surgeries!) and it really has helped me move my old mindset to the new. This is something that will always be a work-in-progress for me I forgive myself readily for forgetting then congratulate myself for changing my thinking.

My “message to me” bracelet.

Sign Above Where I Blog.

Did you find a word or intention for 2018?

I understand that for some people they mean little and for others they like the process and the product.

Last year’s worked for me more than I realised. Thank you KINDNESS especially when I remembered to be kind to me too!

Today as this post goes live I will be in Sydney having my post-surgical check up from last Wednesday’s mouth reconstruction #3.

I will be glancing at my bracelet a few times I imagine!

Denyse.

UPDATE: I will blog next week about the outcome of Wednesday’s visit to Sydney to see Professor Clark and his wonderful Practice Nurse.

Joining in with Sue here and Leanne here for their link up on Wednesdays.

And because of the Theme for Leanne’s Link called Lovin’ Life I am joining in there too on Thursday.

 

 

 

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